Court of Justice of the Andean Community

The Court of Justice of the Andean Community (Tribunal de Justicia de la Comunidad Andina (TJCA)) settles disputes between Andean Community Member States that arise under Community law. The TJAC is seated in Quito, Ecuador and serves the Community’s four Member States: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The Court of Justice of the Andean Community does not have competence to hear individual complaints of alleged human rights violations, but individuals can bring claims to determine whether States are in compliance with trade-related obligations to respect the rights of certain groups.

The Andean Community (Comunidad Andina) is a sub-regional economic integration organization, created pursuant to the Cartagena Agreement of May 26, 1969 to promote regional economic development (as modified by the Protocol of Trujillo (1996), the Protocol of Sucre (1997) and the Additional Protocol to the Cartagena Agreement). The TJCA was created in 1979 as the Court of Justice of the Cartagena Agreement and was then renamed and modified in 1996 by the Protocol of Trujillo to interpret, enforce, and settle disputes arising from Community law.

Article 1 of the Treaty Creating the Court of Justice defines Community law to include the Cartagena Agreement and its protocols, the Treaty Creating the Court of Justice, the decisions of the Andean Council of Foreign Ministers and the Commission of the Andean Community, resolutions of the General Secretariat, and agreements entered into by Member States in the context of Andean integration. These instruments and decisions generally pertain to regional trade and competition, but also touch on the rights of workers, labor migrants, and consumers; public health; and intellectual property, among other topics.

The Treaty Creating the Court of Justice, Articles 17- 27, establishes TJCA jurisdiction over two types of claims: actions of nullification and actions of noncompliance. In addition as according to Articles 28-31, the TJCA renders binding interpretations of Community law at the request of national judges in pending proceedings.

Through actions of nullification, Member States, individuals and companies may challenge the validity of Decisions and Resolutions issued by the Andean Community Commission (policy making body), General Secretariat, and Andean Council of Foreign Affairs (political decision making body) that allegedly violate Community law. States may only file such actions if they did not vote in favor of the challenged Decision. Individuals and companies must allege that the Decision applies to them and has caused them injury.

With regard to actions of noncompliance, the TJCA decides whether a Member State has failed to fulfill its obligations under Community law, but only after the General Secretariat has made a written finding regarding the suspected noncompliance, at which time the General Secretariat may request a ruling from the TJCA. Member States, corporations, and individuals may raise complaints of noncompliance with the General Secretariat. Individuals may only raise a claim of noncompliance with the TJCA after the General Secretariat:

  • Has issued a finding of noncompliance, but does not bring the case to the Court within 60 days;
  • Has issued a finding of compliance; or
  • Has failed to issue a finding regarding the alleged noncompliance within 75 days of receiving the complaint.

For further information on the individual rights protected by Andean Community law, in Spanish, see Derechos del Ciudadano Andino.

Although the Andean Community has adopted the Andean Charter for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, this document is considered a statement of Community values, rather than a binding source of Community law and is therefore not interpreted or applied by the TJCA. See Tratado de Creación del Tribunal de Justicia de la Comunidad Andina, art. 1; Estatuto del Tribunal de Justicia de la Comunidad Andina, art. 2; Consejo Andino de Ministros de Relaciones Exteriores, Decisión 586: Programa de Trabajo para la Difusión y Ejecución de la Carta Andina para la Promoción y Protección de los Derechos Humanos, § II, 2.2.

The Andean Charter “reiterate[s] the will of the Andean Community Member States to accept the decisions of the Inter-American Human Rights Court” and indicates they will “cooperate actively with the United Nations and Inter-American systems for the protection and promotion of human rights” (art. 82), but makes no similar reference to the TJCA. However, Article 86 of the Charter provides that cooperation with those mechanisms does not preclude “the future incorporation of other follow-up ways and means through the pertinent Community channels.”

The TJCA’s functions are further defined in its Statute and Bylaws.