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.

Background to the Development of the Website and Handbook

In an effort to raise awareness about the friendly settlement procedure (FSP), the Commission created the Friendly Settlement Group in 2011, which was tasked with evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the FSP; promoting best practices regarding the use of the FSP among States and civil society organizations, including at national seminars and an inter-American conference; training the Executive Secretariat’s staff and commissioners about the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in cases concerning alleged human rights violations; and publishing an impact report about the FSP, including a section on the successful application of the FSP. See IACHR, Friendly Settlements.

The IACHR adopted the report entitled Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure during its 140th Period of Sessions (October 24 – November 8, 2013), which discusses the evolution and impact of the procedure, including best practices. See IACHR, Friendly Settlements.

As part of an internal reorganization, the Executive Secretariat of the IACHR created a Section of Friendly Settlements and Follow up and, in July 2015, tasked it with monitoring cases that could benefit from the use of the FSP, States’ compliance with friendly settlement agreements, and following up on IACHR recommendations in merits reports about individual cases. See IACHR, Friendly Settlements.

To further inform petitioners about the FSP, the Commission developed the website on friendly settlements and the Handbook on the Use of the Friendly Settlement Mechanism in the IACHR Petition and Case System. See IACHR, Friendly Settlements.

Friendly Settlement Procedure

The friendly settlement procedure allows petitioners and States to engage in a dialogue to reach an agreement concerning reparations for the alleged victims in a non-contentious manner. According to the Commission’s Handbook on the Use of the Friendly Settlement Mechanism in the IACHR Petition and Case System (Handbook), every OAS Member State may use the FSP, even if it has not ratified the American Convention on Human Rights (Convention). The friendly settlement mechanism can be used regardless of the type of alleged human rights violation, unless the Commission decides that the issue cannot be resolved by the FSP, a party refuses to give consent to use the FSP, or if a party is not willing to reach an agreement in accordance with human rights standards. See IACHR, Handbook on the Use of the Friendly Settlement Mechanism in the IACHR Petition and Case System (2015), 2-4.

Article 48(1)(f) of the American Convention on Human Rights (Convention) and Articles 37(4) and 40(1) of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure govern the application of this mechanism. The parties or the Commission on its own initiative are authorized to initiate the FSP. The Commission may serve as a facilitator between the parties in an effort to reach a friendly settlement when the initial petition is forwarded to the state, when the admissibility report is forwarded to the parties, or when one of the parties requests the Commission for a friendly settlement. See id. at 4.

In order to begin the process, both parties must express their interest in writing. If parties successfully negotiate a friendly settlement agreement, which lists the commitments the State will make to the aggrieved parties of alleged human rights violations to provide reparations, the Commission reviews the agreement to ensure that the terms are in accordance with human rights standards outlined in the American Convention on Human Rights (Convention), the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (American Declaration), and other applicable instruments. If the Commission approves the agreement it issues a report. Once the agreement is approved, the Commission no longer processes the petition as a contentious matter, but instead monitors the State’s compliance with the commitments stated in the agreement. See id. at 6-13.

If an agreement is not reached between the parties, the petition will continue to be processed by the Commission at the admissibility or merits stage. See id. at 14-15.

Impact

Through friendly settlements, the IACHR petition process has led to resolution of disputes on a wide range of human rights violations. These include: indigenous peoples’ land rights and protection against violent attacks in Venezuela, a military coup in Guatemala, access to justice and due process in Mexico, and forced sterilization in Peru. See the Impact section of the new webpage for additional details. View the friendly settlement reports to see all complaints resolved through this procedure.

Types of Reparations Provided

The Handbook states that the types of reparations that are frequently included in friendly settlement agreements are economic compensation, which can be determined by an ad hoc tribunal; measures of restitution, including releasing individuals who have been arbitrarily detained or reinstating a person’s employment; measures of rehabilitation, including providing medical insurance coverage, psychological treatment, housing, and scholarships; measures of satisfaction, including a public statement of apology, criminal and disciplinary sanctions against the perpetrators of human rights violations, and building monuments to honor alleged victims; and guarantees of non-repetition, including the adoption of legislative reforms training State officials and creating domestic mechanisms to monitor a State’s compliance with the decisions of the Inter-American system. See id. at 9, 16-19.

For more information about measures of reparation, see the Commission’s report entitled Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure, which includes a detailed section on best practices.

Additional Information

The Section of Friendly Settlements and Follow Up can be contacted by:

  • Mail:

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

1889 F St. NW

Washington, D.C. 20006

USA

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is responsible for monitoring, promoting, and protecting human rights in the 35 Member States of the Organization of the Americas (OAS). To learn more about the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), or the Inter-American System, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.