HERRERA ULLOA AND FERNÁN VARGAS ROHRMOSER
“LA NACIÓN” NEWSPAPER
On February 28, 2001, Fernando Lincoln Guier Esquivel, Carlos Ayala
Corao, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser (hereinafter
the petitioners”) lodged a petition with the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights (hereinafter “the Commission,”
“the Inter-American Commission,” or the “IACHR”), in which
they alleged that the Republic of Costa Rica (hereinafter “the State,”
“Costa Rica,” “the Costa Rican State,” or “the State of Costa
Rica”) violated the freedom of expression and the rights protected under
Articles 1, 2, 8, 13, 24, 25, and 29 of the American Convention on Human
Rights, to the detriment of Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, a journalist, and Fernán
Vargas Rohrmoser, as the legal representative of the newspaper, “La
Nación” (hereinafter referred to as “the presumed victims”).
Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and “La
Nación” newspaper, represented by Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser, were
convicted by the courts for certain articles published on Féliz
Przedborski, a diplomat, who, according to their allegations, had
committed various illegal acts abroad.
When a Costa Rican court issued the order for execution of the
judgment, the petitioners appealed to the Commission to request that the
State adopt precautionary measures. Those measures were requested by the Commission, but the
State of Costa Rica refused to execute them.
The IACHR thereupon requested that the Inter-American Court of
Human Rights (hereinafter “the Court” or “the Inter-American
Court”) order provisional measures, which were granted on September 7,
The State presented arguments regarding the application of
legitimate restrictions to freedom of expression and the lack of legal
standing of the parties, inter alia,
and requested that the
Commission declare itself unqualified to hear this case.
After considering the arguments presented by both parties, the
Commission decided to admit the case and proceed with an analysis of its
PROCESSING BY THE COMMISSION
The petition and the request for precautionary measures were
received by the Commission on March 1, 2001.
The Commission opened the case as case Nº 12,367, sent the
relevant parts of the petition to the State, and asked it to adopt the
following precautionary measures: suspend
execution of the judgment until the Commission had examined the case and
adopted a decision on its merits; refrain from including the name of the
journalist, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, in
the Costa Rican Judicial Register of Criminal Offenders; and, refrain from
taking any action that would affect his right to freedom of expression.
The request for precautionary measures was forwarded to the State,
which was given a period of 15 days to report to the Commission on
specific action taken to comply with said request.
On March 19, 2001, the Commission received a reply from the State,
in which it asked for an extension of the period of time allotted by the
IACHR to submit information. The
Commission granted an extension of the deadline to April 3, 2001.
On March 23, the petitioners sent additional information.
On March 29, 2001, the Commission received a letter from the State
in which it reported that the Secretariat of the Supreme Court of Justice
had decided not to adopt the precautionary measures requested by the
Commission, because it lacked jurisdiction to order them.
On March 21, 2001, the petitioners asked the Commission to place
itself at the disposal of the parties with a view to reaching a friendly
settlement. The Commission
convened the parties to a meeting on March 30, to determine whether the
two sides were willing to seek a friendly settlement of the matter.
At the request of the State, this meeting was postponed to April
23, and subsequently, at the request of both parties, to May 4, the date
on which it took place.
On March 24, 2001, Dr. Pedro Nikken requested that he be included
as a petitioner in the case.
On March 23, 2001, the petitioners requested the Commission to
refer a request for provisional measures to the Inter-American Court of
Human Rights, or, in the event that the Court was not in session, to
submit a request for emergency measures to the President of the Court.
In a letter dated March 28, 2001, the Commission decided to request
that the Court order provisional measures, since the precautionary
measures requested by the IACHR in favor of the petitioners had not been
put into effect. The
President of the Court, Antonio Cançado Trindade, in a decision dated
April 6, 2001, decided to
give the IACHR and Costa Rica until May 12 of that year to submit
information on the urgency and gravity of the situation, the probability
of irreparable damage to the victims, and the possible implications of a
decision to order provisional measures on the merits of the case.
At the same time, it convened the parties to a hearing to be held
on May 22, and it ordered the State to maintain the status
quo with regard to the situation.
On May 10, 2001, the Commission submitted the information
requested. The Costa Rican State requested that the deadline for
submitting the information requested by the Court be extended to May 16.
Once the extension was granted, it submitted the pertinent
information within the time limit authorized.
After the aforesaid hearing, the Court, by decision dated May 23,
2001, gave the Costa Rican State until August 16 to present a report on
the options available under Costa Rican domestic legislation to prevent or
remedy the damage in question. It
further called on the State to refrain from engaging in any act that would
alter the status quo.
The State sent the report in question to the Court, which
forwarded it to the Commission on August 17, with the instructions that
the IACHR submit its comments on it by August 23.
The Commission submitted its comments on August 24, 2001, within
the additional time granted by the President of the Court.
The Secretariat of the Court then called on the State to provide
additional information, which was sent on August 31, 2001.
On September 1, 2001, the Commission submitted its observations on
that document. On September
7, the Inter-American Court decided to authorize the provisional measures
requested by the Commission, and called on Costa Rica to suspend the entry
for Mauricio Herrera Ulloa in the Judicial Register of Criminal Offenders,
and the order to publish the operative part of the judgment and to
establish a connection between the articles and that judgment, until such
time as a final decision on the case is issued by the inter-American
On April 23, 2001, Féliz Przedborski Chawa petitioned the
Commission and the Court to grant his attorneys a hearing, so that they
could explain why the judgment handed down against the petitioners does
not violate their freedom of expression and why crimes against one’s
honor and the crime of desacato [insult
or injury to a public functionary] cannot be confused in Costa Rican
criminal law. The Commission
asked the Court to reject in limine
Mr. Przedborski’s request to intervene in the case, on the grounds it
was contrary to the practices and precedents of the inter-American system,
among other reasons.
On March 30, the Commission received a document expanding the
initial petition sent by the petitioners.
On April 16, the Commission transmitted the pertinent parts of that
document to the State and granted it 90 days to submit its response.
On July 13, it granted an extension of one month to Costa Rica,
which proceeded to send its response to the original petition and to the
document expanding it on August 13, 2001.
On November 16, the IACHR conducted a hearing of the parties, at
which time they gave their opinions on the admissibility of the petition.
The petitioners requested that the petition be declared admissible
and that the report on admissibility be issued pursuant to Article 37 of
the Commission’s Regulations, while the State requested the Commission
to declare the case inadmissible on the grounds that it did not have
jurisdictional competence ratione
personae, because domestic remedies had not been exhausted and because
the acts in question were not a violation of the Convention.
The Commission requested the State of Costa Rica to send in writing
its response to certain questions raised in the course of the hearing,
since a representative of the Attorney General of the Republic had failed
to appear at the hearing.
On November 30, 2001, the State sent the Commission a document
presenting its latest comments on the admissibility of the complaint,
including the replies to the questions the Commissioners had raised during
the November 16, 2001 hearing.
POSITION OF THE PARTIES ON ADMISSIBILITY
Position of the petitioners
The petitioners allege that the petition meets all the requirements
for admission by the Commission.
The journalist, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, wrote two articles
published in “La Nación”
newspaper pertaining to the diplomat, Féliz Przedborski, an ad
honorem representative of Costa Rica to the International Atomic
Energy Commission headquartered in Austria.
In those articles, reference was made to various reports in the
Belgian press which linked the diplomat to serious illegal acts, such as
drug trafficking, tax fraud, and fraudulent bankruptcy, among others. The articles also linked him with Costa Rican politicians and
questioned his suitability to serve as a public official.
The diplomat in question brought a criminal and civil suit for
damages before the Costa Rican courts.
This suit was resolved in a decision handed down on November 12,
1999. The operative part of
that decision found that Mauricio Herrera Ulloa was liable for four
offenses of publication of insults constituting defamation, and punished
him with 120 days in fines, or 300,000 colones, while “La
represented by Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser, was fined 60 million colones for
moral damages or injury to reputation caused by the publications on May
19, 20, and 21 and December 13, 1995, plus one thousand colones for court
costs and three million eight hundred ten thousand colones for personal
costs. At the same time, the
judgment ordered that the links on the case be withdrawn from the Internet
edition of “La Nación” and
that a connection be established between them and the operative portion of
the judgment. It further
ordered publication of the judgment, to be done specifically by the
journalist, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa. On
February 27, 2001, the Criminal Trial Court of the First Judicial Circuit
of San José ordered execution of the judgment, at which time the
petitioners requested the precautionary measures of the Commission.
The petitioners maintain that the Costa Rican courts have violated
the rights enshrined in Articles 1, 2, 8,13, 24, 25, and 29 of the
Convention, restricting the freedom of expression of the presumed victims,
and that this entails international responsibility on the part of the
Costa Rican State. The petitioners further allege that Costa Rican
criminal legislation limits individual freedoms because it contains desacato
laws or “offenses against one’s honor,” which any person may
commit by threatening or offending anyone performing public functions.
They argue that the institution of exceptio
veritatis is also a restriction of individual freedoms, to the extent
that it exonerates from culpability the person charged with defamation or
injury, once the truth of the allegations is proven.
Moreover, the petitioners allege that due process and judicial
guarantees were violated as well, because, in the second appeal
proceeding, the court failed to review the substance of the conviction,
the judges were not impartial, and the principle of non
reformatio in peius was violated.
They argue that the legal prohibition of maintaining Internet
links, and the order to establish others constitute a case of judicial
censure, in violation of the American Convention.
On the issue of admissibility, the petitioners indicated that the
Commission has jurisdiction to hear the petition on the basis of ratione loci, ratione materiae, ratione tempori and
ratione personae. As regards its jurisdiction based on ratione
personae, they maintain that there is active and passive justification
or proof in the present petition. The
active proof is reflected in the fact that the petition identifies as
victims two human beings. The
victims were identified as Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and Fernán Vargas
Rohrmoser, and not the newspaper, “La
Nación.” They alleged that Mr. Rohrmoser is qualified as a victim
because he was the subject of the execution of judgment order, since on
April 3, the Costa Rican Court issued a decision ordering him to comply
with the judgment and threatening him with a prison sentence.
The petitioners made reference to the precautionary measures
requested by the IACHR in favor of Mr. Herrera and Mr. Rohrmoser, and the
provisional measures ordered by the Inter-American Court, which allowed
Mr. Rohrmoser to excuse himself from execution of the judgment of November
12, 1999. They stated that for those reasons, the rights of Mr. Vargas
Rohrmoser protected under the Convention were violated.
In addition, they cited the Cantos case heard by the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights. They contended that the same principle is applicable in the
present petition, since even though Mr. Rohrmoser acted on behalf of a
legal person, the primary interest at stake was his own interest as a
natural person. They alleged
that he was acting in representation of “La
Nación” newspaper as a vehicle of communication, and not as a
Therefore, insofar as admissibility is concerned, the petitioners
maintained that the petition was filed within the six month period
required under Article 46(1), that the facts alleged represent a violation
of the American Convention, and that domestic remedies have been
exhausted, since the last judicial decision was handed down by the Supreme
Court of Justice and cannot be appealed, since it confirms and finalizes
the judgment of the lower court.
Position of the State
The Costa Rican State alleges that the petition is inadmissible,
because the alleged violation is the basis or foundation of a legitimate
limitation or restriction of the exercise of freedom of expression. Therefore, the facts do not represent a violation of the
right to freedom of expression protected under the Convention. The State based its case primarily on Article 47, subsection
(c) of the Convention, which stipulates that a petition shall be
considered inadmissible whenever “the statements of the petitioner or of
the state indicate that the petition or communication is manifestly
groundless or obviously out of order.”
Hence it argued that the petition was inadmissible because it was
manifestly groundless, among other reasons, because the grounds were
“… the basis of a legitimate restriction or limitation of the exercise
of said right….”
Pursuing this argument, the State of Costa Rica invokes Article
13(2)(a) of the American Convention, which stipulates that legal
provisions established by a state to ensure “respect for the rights or
reputations of others…” are an exception to the right to freedom of
expression. Based on that
paragraph, it alleges that the law and the judicial decision applied to
the presumed victims are part of the legitimate restrictions to freedom of
expression, and on that basis, the petition is manifestly groundless, and
The State further alleges that the Commission lacks jurisdiction
to hear the petition. On this point, Costa
Rica requested the Commission to declare itself incompetent to consider
the petition filed by Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser, in his capacity as
president with the authority to act as the legal representative of “La Nación,”
because of the fact that the latter does not have active legal capacity or
standing [legitimación activa].
The State based its argument on Article 1(2) of the Convention,
which stipulates that presumed victims of a violation of the rights
established by the Convention must be physical persons, and not legal
persons. It also cites the
practice of the Inter-American Commission in this regard, making reference
to cases in which it decided that the protection of the Convention does
not extend to legal persons, but only pertains to natural persons,
including the following cases: Banco de Lima (Peru); Tabacalera Boquerón, S.A. (Paraguay);
Bernard-Merens and family (Argentina);
and, Mevopal, S.A. (Argentina).
30. The State also contends that it did not adopt any measure that could be presumed to have violated any rights of Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser. It alleges that Mr. Rohrmoser acted in bad faith in petitioning the Commission and the Court on his own behalf and on behalf of the journalist, Mr. Herrera Ulloa, and in heading some of his pleadings with their names, followed by the words “del Diario La Nación” [“from La Nación newspaper”]. In the opinion of the State, the use of that expression caused confusion on the part of the Commission and the Court, which proceeded to issue, respectively, precautionary measures to prevent irreparable damage to Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser and judicial decisions, in which parity of treatment was granted to the two petitioners. The State holds that this was not appropriate under the law.
In the final comments sent by the State to the IACHR on November
30, 2001, additional considerations regarding the legal standing or
capacity of Mr. Vargas Rohrmoser were put forward. In the first place, it
contended that the petitioners made a false statement when they declared
that the order of execution dated February 21, 2001 entailed a warning of a possible criminal sanction for committing the offense of
disobedience of authority, since that circumstance arose under the
decision of April 3, 2001, and was notified on May 1 of that year,
subsequent to the date on which the petition was filed with the IACHR. The State pointed out that this decision is not referred to
in the written documents submitted earlier by the petitioners, and that it
should therefore be disregarded on those grounds.
As for the allegation by petitioners that Mr. Vargas Rohrmoser
would be subject to imprisonment, the State alleged that this would not
occur even in the event that he failed to comply with the order of
execution of judgment, since under Costa Rican criminal law, there is
provision for conditional execution of sentence.
Two requirements are established under this provision:
that there be an earlier offense; and, that the sentence imposed be
less than three years. Consequently,
the State maintains that even if Mr. Vargas Rohrmoser has no criminal
record, a prison sentence would never ultimately be served, because the
sentence applicable to offenses of disobedience of authority is less than
The State alleged that the petition is inadmissible because of a
failure to exhaust domestic remedies, since the alleged victims could have
used the recourse of unconstitutionality, in an attempt to derogate the
law which in their view violated their freedom of expression and to
prevent it from having legal effect, thereby failing to observe the
principle of the subsidiary character of the inter-American system.
It went on to state that this recourse would have been appropriate
and effective in derogating the law which the petitioners considered to be
a violation of their rights, since “the matter pending settlement in the
national courts is suspended until a decision is issued in this case.”
Finally, the State indicated that the declaration of
unconstitutionality causes the law or legal instrument being challenged
become null and void, produces res
judicata, and eliminates the legal provision or instrument from the
body of law, and that the constitutional judgment providing for nullity
has retroactive effect in favor of persons suspected or convicted of a
ANALYSIS OF ADMISSIBILITY
Jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission, on the basis of ratione
personae, ratione materiae, ratione temporis y ratione loci
Competence “ratione personae”
Article 44 of the American Convention and Article 23 of the
Regulations of the IACHR stipulate that “any person or group of
persons” may lodge petitions with the Commission referring to alleged
violations of the American Convention.
Therefore, Fernando Lincoln Guier Esquivel, Carlos Ayala Corao,
Pedro Nikken, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser are
authorized to appear as petitioners before this Commission.
In the case in point, the legal standing of the presumed victims [legitimación
procesal] has been questioned. The
petitioners presented Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser,
the latter in his capacity as legal representative of “La
Nación,” as victims of the reported acts, and requested
precautionary measures in favor of both of them.
In the first place, the Commission observes that the character of
presumed victim attributed to Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, is not disputed at
all, since he fits within the scope of the definition of person pursuant
to Article 1(2) of the Convention, which stipulates that “person means
every human being.” Moreover,
Mr. Herrera Ulloa, as the subject of the judicial proceedings initiated by
the diplomat Féliz Przedborski, is directly affected by the judicial
decisions of November 12, 1999 and January 24, 2001, and by the order of
execution dated February 27, 2001, inter
alia. Pursuant to these
judgments, he was ascribed responsibility for committing various offenses
and ordered to execute the sentence.
Finally, the IACHR is fully competent from the standpoint of ratione materiae with regard to Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, to ascertain
whether there were violations of his rights as established by the American
As regards the legal standing of Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser,
the State contends that Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser, as the legal
representative of “La Nación,” acted on behalf of a legal person and not on his own
behalf, and that therefore the Commission is not competent ratione personae to consider the petition.
The petitioners allege that the individual rights of Mr. Vargas
Rohrmoser were directly affected by the Execution and Prevention Order
dated February 21, 2001, which required the presumed victims to execute
the order “immediately, … peremptorily, irrevocably, without delay.”
At the same time, they allege that the judicial decision of April
3, 2001 warned the presumed victims of the possibility of being charged
with the crime of disobedience of authority in the event they should fail
to comply with the judgment, which would entail imposition of a criminal
sanction or a prison sentence for Mr. Vargas Rohrmoser if he should fail
to execute the judgment, which would directly violate his rights protected
under the Convention. The
State alleges that the Execution and Prevention Order is binding on Mr.
Vargas Rohrmoser exclusively in his capacity as the legal representative
of “La Nación,” and not in
a personal capacity, and that noncompliance on his part does not entail a
criminal sanction or prison sentence against him, since execution of the
sentence is subject to commutation under Costa Rican national law.
The Commission is of the opinion that to determine whether or not
Mr. Vargas Rohrmoser was a victim will require a complex analysis both of
conventional laws, such as laws applicable to the Costa Rican national
jurisdiction, and of the jurisprudence of the Commission and the Court,
which is closely linked to decisions to be adopted by the IACHR on the
merits of the case. Therefore,
the Commission is reserving its decision on the qualification of Fernán
Vargas Rohrmoser as a victim for the later stage of the proceedings on the
substance of the matter.
Therefore, for the purposes of admissibility, the Commission
decides that it is competent ratione
personae insofar as Mauricio Herrera Ulloa is concerned, and it is
deferring its decision on Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser to a later stage, when
it reaches a determination on the merits of this petition.
Competence ratione materiae
Having identified the presumed victim in this petition, the
Commission will now consider the question of its competence by reason of
the subject matter of the reported violations.
In this regard, the Commission notes that the judgment of November
12, 1999 was binding on the journalist, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and “La Nación” newspaper jointly, since it stated that the
journalist, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, was the author of four crimes of
publication of offensive material constituting defamation and sentenced
him jointly and severally with La
Nación to payment of a separate fine for moral prejudice.
At the same time, the judgment established similar obligations for
Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and “La
Nación” newspaper, as it ordered the former to publish the
operative part of the judgment and the latter to withdraw the link between
the articles in dispute written by Mauricio Herrera and establish a new
link between said articles and the operative part of the conviction.
In view of these facts, which are not disputed by the parties, the
Commission considers that it is competent to determine whether they
constitute violations of Article 13 of the American Convention.
Commission finds that the petition reports violations of human rights
protected by the American Convention.
Therefore, the Commission is competent ratione
materiae to consider the petition.
Competence “ratione temporis”
The Commission also has jurisdiction on the basis of ratione temporis, since the acts alleged in the petition took place
at a time when the obligation to respect and guarantee the rights
established by the Convention was in force in the State of Costa Rica.
Competence “ratione loci”
Finally, the Commission is competent ratione
loci to consider the petition, because it contains allegations of
violations of rights protected by the American Convention which took place
in the territory of the State of Costa Rica.
Other requirements for admissibility of the petition
Exhaustion of domestic remedies
On May 29, 1998, the Criminal Court of the First Judicial Circuit
of San José handed down a decision absolving Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and
Nación” newspaper of any guilt in the criminal complaint
with civil suit for damages filed by
Féliz Przedborski. Mr.
Przedborski then filed a recurso de
casación [extraordinary appeal for reversal of the lower court
opinion] with the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice.
The Supreme Court vacated
the earlier decision and sent the case back to the Criminal Court of the
First Judicial Circuit, which, in a verdict handed down on November 12,
1999, convicted the journalist, Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, and the newspaper
“La Nación” of the
offenses. The petitioners
filed a recurso de casación
with the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, which rejected the
appeal in a decision issued on January 24, 2001. In view of the fact that no further appeals on that decision
are legally admitted, the judgment remains firm and executory.
The State alleged that domestic remedies were not exhausted, and it
pointed to the appeal of unconstitutionality as the appropriate, effective
remedy to be exhausted by the petitioners.
In this regard, the Commission notes that the central object of the
petition is the sanction imposed on the assumed victims in the conviction
issued on November 12, 1999 and the order of execution dated February 1,
2000, which they challenged using the ordinary appeals available in
criminal procedure, and, when they were rejected,
arrived at a situation of res
Inter-American Court of Human Rights has found that an appeal of internal
jurisdiction is adequate whenever it is sufficient to protect the
infringed legal situation, since “in all national bodies of law, there
are many remedies, but not all of them are applicable in all
the Commission notes that the petitioners were not required to exhaust the
remedy of unconstitutionality, since it is not a suitable remedy to
protect the legal situation that was supposedly affected in the case in
point, consisting of a conviction the immediate execution of which was
ordered by the Costa Rican courts.
46. At the same time, the Commission points out that on a number of occasions, the Court has found that “prior exhaustion of domestic remedies allows the State to solve the problem on the basis of domestic law before having to face an international process.” In this regard, the Commission notes that Article 8(1) of the Law of Constitutional Jurisdiction states the following:
who administer justice may not:
Apply laws or other rules or legal instruments of any kind that are
contrary to the Constitution.
a result, in accordance with its practices, the Commission holds the opinion that the process
initiated against the assumed victims contemplated the possibility that
the Costa Rican courts would have recourse to judicial consultation on
constitutionality with the Supreme Court of Justice, so that it could
decide on the applicability or inapplicability of the criminal laws that
the petitioners denounced as being in violation of the human rights of the
victims. Article 8.1 of the
Law of Constitutional Jurisdiction offers the judicial authorities the
possibility of redressing the matter domestically. The Commission believes
that in this specific case, in view of the fact that the principal object
of the petition is the questioning of the conviction referred to earlier,
the petitioners were not required to exhaust action in regard to
they did exhaust domestic remedies pursuant to Article 46(1)(a).
Deadline for lodging the petition
The six-month term stipulated in Article 46.1 (b) was complied with
in this case, since the petitioners lodged the petition on March 1, 2001,
after the last decision was handed down by the Third Chamber of the
Supreme Court of Justice on January 24, 2001.
Duplication of procedures and res judicata
It appears from the case file that the petition lodged with the
Inter-American Commission is not currently pending in any other
international settlement proceedings, nor is it a substantial reproduction
of another previous petition or communication already considered by the
Commission or another international organization, as established in
Articles 46(1)( c) and 47(d), respectively.
Characterization of the alleged events
The State requested that the Commission reject the petition in limine on the grounds that it is “manifestly groundless.”
The Commission is of the view that it is not appropriate to
determine whether or not there was a violation of the American Convention
at this stage of the proceedings. For
the purposes of admissibility, the Commission must decide if the events
can be characterized as a violation, as stipulated in Article 47(b) of the
American Convention, and if the petition is “manifestly groundless” or
“obviously out of order,” pursuant to subparagraph (c) of that
Article. The standard for
evaluating these factual requirements is different from the requirement
for deciding on the merits of a petition.
The IACHR must conduct a prima
facie evaluation to determine whether the petition establishes grounds
for the apparent or potential violation of a right guaranteed by the
Convention, but not to establish the existence of a violation.
This determination involves a summary analysis which does not imply
a prejudgment or advance opinion on the substance of the matter. The Commission’s Regulations, by establishing two clear
stages, one involving admissibility and the other the substance of the
petition, reflects this distinction between the evaluation the Commission
must conduct for the purpose of declaring a petition admissible and that
required to establish a violation.
The extensive arguments presented by the State on this point
demonstrate in and of themselves that the petition is not “manifestly
groundless,” that it is not “obviously out of order,” or that it
does [not] characterize a presumed violation.
On the contrary, the very response of the State deserves a more
careful examination of the petition during the stage involving its merits.
The IACHR considers that, prima
facie, the petitioners have proven the factual requirements stipulated
in Article 47(b) and (c).
For the reasons given earlier, the Commission considers that it is
competent to hear this case and that, pursuant to Articles 46 and 47 of
the American Convention, the petition is admissible, on the terms set
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS,
To declare the present case admissible insofar as the presumed
violations of the rights protected in Articles 1, 2, 8, 13, 24, 25, and 29
of the American Convention are concerned, and to reserve its analysis of
an individual consideration of the rights of the presumed victims until it
decides on the merits of the case.
To notify the parties of this decision.
To continue with its examination of the merits of the case.
To publish this decision and include it in its Annual Report to the
OAS General Assembly.
Done and signed at the headquarters of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, in Washington, D.C., on the third day of December, 2001. (Signed:) Claudio
Grossman, President; Marta Altolaguirre, First Vice-President;
Commissioners Robert K. Goldman, Peter Laurie, and Julio Prado Vallejo.
Fáundez Ledesma, The Inter-American System for the Protection of
Human Rights, Constitutional and Procedural Aspects, San José,
Inter-American Human Rights Institute, second edition, 1999, p.415.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 10/91, case
10.169, February 22,
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 47/97, petition,
October 16, 1997.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 106/99,
petition, September 27, 1999.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 103/99,
petition, September 27, 1999.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 39/99, petition,
March 11, 1999.
See the letter from the Office of the Public Prosecutor of the
Republic of Costa Rica to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Nº
PGA-293-2001 of November 30, 2001, p. 9.
Costa Rica ratified the American Convention on April 8, 1970, and on
July 2, 1980 it presented to the OAS General Secretariat its
instrument of recognition of the jurisdiction of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights, pursuant to Articles 45 and 62 of the
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Velásquez
Rodríguez Case, paras. 63 and 64.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Velásquez
Rodríguez Case. Judgment of July 29, 1998, para. 61.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report Nº 77/01, case
11.571, Humberto Antonio
Palamara Iribarne, Chile, October 10,. 2001, paras. 33-35.