Last month, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued its Annual Report 2014, summarizing the Court’s structure, jurisprudence, and activities throughout 2014. The Report discusses the Court’s functions, summarizes the status of cases before the Court, breaks down the Court’s budget, and describes additional activities the Court undertook in 2014. See Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Annual Report 2014. The majority of the Report focuses on the hearings that the Court held, cases that were submitted to the Court, and judgments that the Court delivered in 2014. See id. at 12–33, 39–66.
Relevant Statistics in 2014
The Court delivered 16 judgments in 2014. See id.at 25. The Report notes that the average amount of time it took the Court to process cases was 24.1 months, emphasizing that the guarantee of the right to a hearing within a reasonable time under the American Convention as well as the Court’s case law applies to international organs and courts. See id. at 25–34.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights submitted 19 contentious cases to the Court in 2014, which is more than it had submitted in the past two years (12 in 2012 and 11 in 2011), resulting in an almost 50% increase in the Court’s caseload. See id. at 22. The Report provides brief summaries of these cases, which consist of one case each against Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Suriname, and multiple cases against Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Peru. See id. at 13-21. The Report also summarizes the five regular sessions and two special sessions that the Court held in 2014. See id. at 12–14.
The Report contains charts that illustrate the number of cases that were pending, the total number of judgments delivered by the Court, the current status of provisional measures, and the level of compliance with reparations as of the end of 2014. The information in these charts is organized by State party. See id. at 68–76. The Court is currently monitoring 29 provisional measures; it adopted three new provisional measures and repeated four provisional measures last year. See id. at 36, 70–72. At the end of 2014, the Court was monitoring compliance with its judgments in 158 cases. See id. at 72–76.
Significant Developments in Jurisprudence
The Report summarizes the issues that gave rise to significant case law development in 2014. One overarching theme in the case law was the treatment of migrants, especially children. The Report expands on developments concerning the following issues: the death of a child in State custody, the right to personal integrity of persons in State custody, guarantees of due process in migration proceedings involving children, the right to seek and receive asylum, and the principle of non-refoulement, according to which a person cannot be returned to a country if his or her right to life or personal freedom would be endangered due to race, nationality, religion, social status, or political opinions. American Convention on Human Rights “Pact of San José, Costa Rica” (adopted 22 November 1969, entered into force 18 July 1978), 1144 UNTS 123, OASTS No. 36, OEA/Ser.L.V/II.82 doc.6 rev.1 at 25, art. 22(8). The Report also contains information on case law on the topics of the right to family life, the State’s failure to acknowledge identity documents, and the State obligation to adopt domestic laws that are in accordance with the right to equal protection of the law. See id. at 40–66.
The Report identifies many developments associated with due process rights and judicial protection including: legal assistance and the right to defense, the right to equality before the law, the right to appeal, pre-detention trial standards, the State’s duty to diligently investigate human rights violations, and particularly gender-based violence against women as well as torture and sexual violence, and the prohibition of State retaliation against individuals for statements made before the Court. See id. at 40–64.The Report discusses the scope of the principle of legality, which refers to the judge’s duty to strictly apply criminal law so that the defendant is only punished for actions that are against the law. See id. at 47. The Report addresses developments in the treatment of evidence, specifically rejecting a stereotyped assessment of evidence and clarifying the standard of evidence required to establish a human rights violation based on a State’s omission to act when it has a duty to act. See id. at 44, 60. The Report also discusses the use of military criminal jurisdictions and the detention of military personnel in military facilities. See id. at 49, 64.
Additionally, the Report references case law developments concerning: the protection of indigenous lands and communities, the protection of human rights defenders, violence against women as well as girl children, sexual violence against males, appropriate standards for the use of force, and guarantees of non-repetition, which are measures that States must take to ensure that the human rights violation will not occur again. See id. at 40–66.
The Report also contains information about the Court’s budget including the income it received during the year, the sources of this income, the approval of the 2015 budget, and the audit of the 2013 budget. The Report discusses the Victims’ Legal Assistance Fund, the purpose of which is to allow those who would otherwise be unable to bring a case to the Court because of financial limitations to do so. Finally, the budgetary section of the Report includes information about a meeting that was held to determine how well the mechanism of the Inter-American Defender, which provides free legal assistance to presumed victims who lack financial resources or legal representation, has been functioning. See id. at 77-90.
Other Activities of the Court
In October 2014, the Court presented volumes of its case law in Portuguese at the Palace of Justice in Brazil, as part of an effort to increase awareness of the Court’s jurisprudence among Portuguese-speaking communities. See id. at 90. Also during 2014, the Court expanded its use of technology by posting videos of public hearings on its webpage and increasing its presence on social media. See id. at 90–91.
Other activities during 2014 included meetings between members of the Court and leaders in the Americas, visiting professionals, students, and civil society organizations. Members of the Court also met with members of the European Court of Human Rights and other European institutions to foster partnerships that promote and protect human rights. The Court also held multiple seminars, conferences, and trainings to increase awareness about the Inter-American human rights system. See id. at 91–99.
To learn more about the Inter-American human rights system, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. IJRC has also published an extensive guide on Advocacy before the Inter-American System: Manual for Attorneys and Advocates, available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole.