IACHR HAILS PROGRESS
IN FRIENDLY SETTLEMENTS
During its 126th regular period of sessions, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held several working meetings on petitions and cases in the process of friendly settlement, as well as on follow-up on compliance with recommendations contained in reports on the merits. The IACHR is heartened by the progress made during these meetings, and acknowledges and is grateful for the willingness of States and petitioners to engage in dialogue and come to terms with a view to moving toward solutions in these cases. In particular, the Commission underscores the importance of the agreement signed by the Government of Argentina and the petitioners in the Correa Belisle case, ratification of the agreement between the Government of Mexico and representatives of the victims in the Paulina Ramírez Jacinto petition, and the signing of the agreement between the Government of Peru and the judges and prosecutors not reconfirmed by the National Council of the Magistracy.
Argentina pledges to reform the Code of Military Justice
The IACHR expresses satisfaction with the signing of a friendly settlement agreement between the Government of Argentina and Captain Rodolfo Correa Belisle (Ret.), which includes a commitment to reform the Code of Military Justice so that it will provide the military with the same due process guarantees as for civilians. This reform would eliminate the special military jurisdiction and create a new system of sanctions that is respectful of the rights and guarantees of members of the Armed Forces.
The IACHR highlights the importance of the agreement signed on September 18 in Argentina, not only for that country but for the region as a whole. The Commission has indicated on numerous occasions that various countries of the region should reform their military justice laws. Military case law requires that military jurisdiction be used solely and exclusively to prosecute the crimes of active-duty security forces and not other conduct. The Commission considers that the approval of the new Code of Military Justice would not only be a significant step forward in bringing Argentine laws into line with its commitments and duties under the American Convention on Human Rights, but would also serve as a benchmark for other countries of the region. As stated by the Commission during the hearing, once the Argentine Code of Military Justice has been reformed in accordance with that agreement, it will become an important benchmark for other countries, enabling them to bring their military justice systems into line with international standards and the requirements of justice in a democratic society.
The IACHR underscores the creativity of the petitioners, who, through an individual case, were able to have a positive influence, prompting Argentine legislation to meet international standards, as well as the political will of the Argentine State to meet its commitments under the inter-American human rights system. The Commission will continue to follow up on the process until its completion, including the adoption by the National Congress of the new Code of Military Justice. It calls upon the Argentine State to adopt the new Code quickly, expresses its support in that regard, and anticipates its adoption in order to approve the agreement and conclude the case.
Another case in the process of friendly settlement between the petitioners and the Government of Argentina is that of the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA), in which the parties reported that some progress had been made, for example, in the prosecution of various persons charged with concealment of the attack, as well as in dealing with pending challenges, including the adoption of reforms of the Intelligence Law, determination of the responsibilities of the instigators and accomplices in the case in which the attack is being investigated, and the implementation of an anti-disaster unit and a contingency plan. During the hearing, agreement was reached on an agenda for complying with the agreements.
In another Argentine case, Menéndez, Caride, et al. (known as “The Retirees”), the parties reported on various measures adopted in the ongoing friendly settlement procedure and, in particular, expressed satisfaction that the Argentine Congress had passed the bill on reform of Provisional Solidarity Law 24.463, the text of which was approved by consensus as part of that process. According to the information presented, the reforms will enter into force in January 2007. The Commission also expressed satisfaction with that major step forward in the process and will continue to follow up on it.
Peru moving toward a solution for non-reconfirmed judges and prosecutors
The Commission expresses satisfaction with the efforts by the State of Peru that led to success in the friendly settlement procedure in the case of the judges and prosecutors not reconfirmed by the National Council of the Magistracy. At a working meeting during this period of sessions, the State of Peru submitted a new friendly settlement agreement signed by 50 judges and prosecutors which, under the agreed terms, could reinstate them in their functions. The State asked the IACHR to publish the respective report with a view to its implementation and expressed its readiness to conclude similar agreements with the other judges and prosecutors whose petitions were being processed by the Commission. The IACHR hopes that the State will make progress toward a comprehensive solution to all pending petitions as soon as possible, so that this solution may cover all judges and prosecutors not reconfirmed by the National Council of the Magistracy.
A working meeting was also held to follow up on the recommendations made in the Joint Press Release of February 22, 2001. On that occasion, the Peruvian State presented a broad proposal to settle 165 cases being considered by the Commission. At the working meeting during the recent period of sessions, the petitioners set forth the obstacles to full compliance with the State’s commitments in the areas of health, education, and housing, as well as on matters of justice. The State said that, on the basis of the information received, it would do its utmost to eliminate the difficulties identified by the petitioners.
Mexico makes progress in a case on women’s rights
The Commission hails the progress made in achieving a friendly settlement agreement with regard to the petition of Paulina Ramírez Jacinto, Mexico. The petitioners alleged that Paulina Ramírez, at the age of 13, was denied the right to obtain an abortion allowed by law since she and her mother were victims of intimidation and delays at the hands of State officials. The parties ratified a friendly settlement agreement that consists of public acknowledgement of responsibility by the Government of Baja California and a large array of compensatory measures for the victim and her son, including court costs associated with the case, medical expenses for health-related services, financial support for maintenance, housing, education, and professional development, psychological care, and compensation for pain and suffering. The IACHR is pleased to see the readiness of the parties to cooperate in settling this situation and will continue to monitor the process.
Along different lines, the Commission expresses satisfaction with the significant progress made in the friendly settlement procedure in the case of Reyes Penagos Martínez, Enrique Flores, and Julieta Flores, in Chiapas, Mexico. The petition alleges that Penagos Martínez died while in the custody of the State’s Judicial Police, and that Julieta Flores and her father, Enrique Flores, were tortured and illegally detained. The agreement would include compensation for Penagos Martínez’s widow and children and for Enrique Flores, a public acknowledgment by the State of its responsibility, and an investigation into the facts. The IACHR expresses satisfaction with the meeting between the parties on November 3, at which some of the compensatory measures were agreed upon.
Paraguay makes progress in barring the recruitment of minors
The Commission expresses satisfaction with the headway made in following up on its recommendations to Paraguay in the report on the merits in the case of Víctor Hugo Maciel, a minor who died while performing compulsory military service. The victim suffered from Chagas disease and his death occurred as a result of increased physical effort during a military training exercise. The Commission considers fundamental, and expresses satisfaction with, the State’s readiness to foster and monitor total compliance with the recommendations, in particular the bill strictly prohibiting the recruitment of minors, i.e. persons under 18. Likewise, it is heartened by the States public acknowledgement of responsibility and by the payment of compensation to members of the victim’s family.
On another point, the Commission expresses satisfaction with the working meeting to monitor the situation in the Hospital Neuropsiquiátrico in Paraguay. It highlights the advances made in developing comprehensive protection of the rights of persons with mental disabilities in Paraguay, in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization. The Commission welcomed the Ministerial Resolution presented by the Paraguayan State that established the Multidisciplinary Technical Commission to Strengthen Reform of the Mental Health System in the framework of the National Health Policy, and it hopes that this will contribute to a process of promotion and observance of the human rights of all persons with mental disabilities, with the assistance of civil society organizations.
Friendly settlement terms approved in a case in Venezuela
During this period of sessions, the Commission welcomed the approval of the terms of a friendly settlement report in the case of Sebastián Echaniz Alcorta and Juan Víctor Galarza Mendiola, of Venezuela, in which the petitioners alleged that Messrs. Galarza Mendiola and Echaniz Alcorta had been deported without due guarantees. The Commission is very appreciative of the efforts made by both parties to achieve this settlement, which is compatible with the objective and the purpose of the American Convention on Human Rights.
Washington, D.C., November 8, 2006