From October 8 to 17, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held its 105th Regular Session at its headquarters in San José, Costa Rica. [IACtHR] During this session, the Court handed down three judgments, which will be publicized soon, concerning forced disappearance, indigenous land rights, and arbitrary killings. The Court also issued orders regarding provisional measures in three cases. On October 17, the Court held a public hearing on a pending case, Canales Huapaya et al. v. Peru, involving the right to a fair trial and judicial protection. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]
The Court adopted its judgments in the following cases: Rochac Hernández et al. v. El Salvador, Kuna Indigenous People of Madungandi and Embera Indigenous People of Bayano and their Members v. Panama, and Tarazona Arrieta et al. v. Peru. The Court held public hearings in the first two of these cases in April of this year at its 50th Special Session. [IJRC] At its most recent session, the also Court adopted orders regarding provisional measures in Meléndez Quijano et al. v. El Salvador, Ibsen Cárdenas e Ibsen Peña v. Bolivia, and Garífuna Punta Piedra Community and its Members v. Honduras. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]
Rochac Hernández et al. v. El Salvador
Rochac Hernández et al. v. El Salvador concerns the alleged forced disappearance of four children between 1980 and 1982 in the context of an armed conflict; the children were allegedly last seen with members of the armed forces. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that the State’s failure to diligently investigate the disappearances within a reasonable time violated the “right to recognition of juridical personality, to life, to humane treatment, to personal liberty, to family, to special protection for children, and to judicial guarantees and judicial protection” under the American Convention on Human Rights. See, IACHR, Report No. 90/06, Petition 731-03, Rochac Hernández (El Salvador) 21 October 2006; IACHR, Report No. 75/12, Cases 12.577, 12.646, 12.647, 12.667, Rochac Hernández (El Salvador), 7 November 2012, paras. 4, 219–229.
Kuna Indigenous People of Madungandi and Embera Indigenous People of Bayano and their Members v. Panama
The petitioners, indigenous communities, asserted that the State forced them to abandon their ancestral land from 1972 to 1976 so that non-indigenous third parties could construct a hydroelectric dam. The Commission found that the State had violated the petitioners’ rights to property, judicial protection, a fair trial, and equal protection, as set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights. See IACHR, Report No. 125/12, Kuna Indigenous People of Madungandi and Embera Indigenous People of Bayano and their Members, 13 November 2012, para. 2. The petitioners also alleged that the State had failed to provide them with economic compensation, failed to protect against invasions of settlers and illegal logging, and failed to recognize, award title for, and demarcate the territory, instead granting property title to non-indigenous third parties. See id. at paras. 2, 236.
Tarazona Arrieta et al. v. Peru
In 1994, a member of the army allegedly killed two people and injured a third who were travelling in a public transportation vehicle, when the soldier shot at the vehicle in an attempt to stop it. The Commission held that the State had violated the three victims’ right to humane treatment and was responsible for arbitrarily depriving the two victims of their lives. [IACHR Press Release] The Commission submitted the case to the Court in June 2013 because Peru indicated that it could not comply with the Commission’s recommendation to make amends for the violation of judicial guarantees and judicial protections under the American Convention on Human Rights. [IACHR Press Release]
Meléndez Quijano et al. v. El Salvador
In 2007, the Court ordered El Salvador to adopt provisional measures to “protect the life and personal integrity” of Major Adrián Meléndez Quijano. Meléndez Quijano was the Chief of the Department of Human Rights of the National Defense Ministry, and had reported several human rights violations that the Salvadoran Army had allegedly committed. I/A Court H.R., Matter of Meléndez Quijano et al. regarding El Salvador. Provisional Measures. Order of May 12, 2007, paras. 1–2. Consequently, he and his family received death threats and were searched by high-ranking Army officials, arrested, and stabbed. See id. The Commission first ordered precautionary measures in October 2006, and submitted its request to the Court in 2007 after El Salvador had failed to implement the Commission’s requests. See id. at para. 3. The Court’s order for provisional measures has been renewed multiple times throughout the years. See, e.g., I/A Court H.R., Matter of Meléndez Quijano et al. regarding El Salvador. Provisional Measures. Order of August 21, 2013. At its most recent session, the Inter-American Court again determined whether to extend these measures; its decision has not yet been published. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]
Ibsen Cárdenas and Ibsen Peña v. Bolivia
In 2010, the Court held that Bolivia was responsible for the detention and forced disappearance of Rainer Isben Cárdenas in 1971 and the arrest and forced disappearance of José Luis Isben Peña in 1973. I/A Court H.R., Ibsen Cárdenas and Ibsen Peña v. Bolivia. Merits, Reparation, and Costs. Judgment of September 1, 2010. Series C No. 217, paras. 103, 119. The Court found that the State had also failed to comply with its duty to investigate the human rights violations it committed. See id. at para. 163. The Court held that Bolivia violated its obligations under the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, along with the right to personal liberty, humane treatment, right to juridical personality, and the right to life, as set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights. See id. at para. 122. The Court considered a request for precautionary measures related to this case at its 105th Session, and will publish its decision shortly. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]
Garífuna Community of Triunfo de la Cruz and its Members v. Honduras
The petitioners, the Garífuna Community of Triunfo de la Cruz, alleged that Honduras failed to protect their ancestral lands when it made decisions to develop tourism projects on the land without consulting the community. [IACHR Press Release] The Commission found that the petitioners did not have effective access to justice regarding the sale of their land, and that the State did not adequately protect community leaders from harassment and ongoing violence caused by third parties. [IACHR Press Release] The Commission held that Honduras violated its obligations under the American Convention on Human Rights by violating the right to property; failing to include the indigenous community in decision-making; failing to recognize, award title for, and demarcate the territory; and failing to conduct a serious investigation into alleged human rights violations. See IACHR, Report No. 76/12. Case No. 12.548, Garífuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its Members (Honduras), 7 November 2012, para. 294. The Commission submitted the case to the Court in 2013, because the State failed to inform the Commission of the measures it had taken to implement the recommendations. [IACHR Press Release]
In 2006, the Commission granted precautionary measure to the Garífuna community of Trifuno de la Cruz, requesting the State to protect the indigenous community’s ownership of their ancestral land and to prevent implementation of decrees that would affect ownership interests. See IACHR, Precautionary Measures 2006, para. 33. The Inter-American Court has adopted its resolution concerning the request for provisional measures, now that the case is pending before it, and its decision will be published soon. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]
Canales Huapaya et al. v. Peru
On October 17, the Court held a public hearing on Canales Huapaya et al. v. Peru, a case in which the Commission found that the State had violated the right to a fair trial and to judicial protection by failing to have an adequate and effective judicial response to the dismissal of three employees of the Peruvian Congress in 1998. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish); IACHR Press Release] The Commission recommended that the State remedy its violations of the American Convention on Human Rights by complying with the reparations set forth in a similar case addressing Peru’s dismissal of Congressional employees. See I/A Court H.R., Case of the “Dismissed Congressional Employees” (Aguado-Alfaro et al.) v. Peru. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of November 24, 2006. Series C No. 158, paras. 148–151. [IACHR Press Release] On December 5, 2013, the Commission submitted this case to the Court because Peru had not provided the Commission with information regarding its implementation of the recommendation. [IACHR Press Release]
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