Friday, May 10, 2013

Inter-American Human Rights Commission Refers New Cases to Court

Inter Am Commn Human RtsThe Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) has referred several new cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights this spring.  Two cases that may be of particular interest involve Venezuela and El Salvador.

In the case against Venezuela, the IACHR filed an application with the Court in Case No. 12.828, Marcel Granier et. al. RCTV. The facts revolve around the decision of the State of Venezuela not to renew the authorization to the frequency to Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). As a consequence of this decision, on May 28, 2007, RCTV stopped the transmission as an open television station.

In its Merits Report, the IACHR concluded that Venezuela's decision to not renew the license violated the right to freedom of expression, the right to equality and non-discrimination, and administrative due process. Although the formal objective declared by the State to support diversity and pluralism was indeed a legitimate public interest, the evidence of the case showed that the decision was based on the editorial line of the station. As a result, the IACHR found that the decision was incompatible with freedom of expression. In addition, RCTV was treated differently in comparison with other TV operators whose circumstances related to the concession were identical. The IACHR determined that the difference of treatment was not justified and thereby violated the rights to equal protection under the law and non-discrimination. The Commission also concluded that the process that led to the confiscation of property of RCTV violated administrative due process.

The IACHR referred the case to the Court on February 21, 2013, because the State did not inform the Commission in a timely manner of its efforts to comply with the recommendations contained in the Merits Report.  According to an IACHR press release, "this case will allow the Court to analyze for the first time the effects on the right to freedom of expression, in its individual and social dimensions, as a consequence of the actions of the State related to the assignment of radio and television licenses. . . Additionally, this case will allow the Court to deepen its jurisprudence regarding the principle of equality and non-discrimination, especially when the States undertake a differential treatment  based on the political opinion. The Court would have to establish the scrutiny that needs to be made in these cases, as well as the supporting parameters and the substantive criteria that must be followed to evaluate whether or not a differential treatment of this nature is compatible with the American Convention on Human Rights."

In a second case against El Salvador, the IACHR filed an application with the Court in Case No. 12.577, Rochac y otros. The facts of this case refer to the forced disappearance of the boys Jose Adrian Rochac Hernandez, Santo Ernesto Salinas, Manuel Antonio Bonilla Osorio and Ricardo Ayala Abarca, and the girl Emelinda Lorena Hernandez. These disappearances took place between 1980 and 1982, in circumstances with similar characteristics.   More than 30 years after their disappearance, the destiny or whereabouts of any of the victims are still not known. Thus, according to the IACHR, these crimes remain in impunity, given that the State did not conduct a serious and diligent investigation, within a reasonable period, on the forced disappearance of the victims, as a mechanism to guarantee their rights and to ensure the rights to truth, justice and reparation of their family members. The IACHR also concluded that El Salvador violated the right to family and special protecton of the boys and the girl, as the State was responsible for the actions of its Armed Forces, which led to the separation of the victims from their families of origin, through their forced disappearance.

The IACHR sent the case to the Court on March 21, 2013, because the IACHR deemed that the State had not complied with the recommendations contained in the IACHR's Merits Report. In that report, the IACHR recommended the State to conduct a thorough, impartial, and effective investigation into the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared persons and, if they are found, make the necessary efforts to ensure family reunification. If it is established that any of them is not alive, the State is to take the measures necessary to deliver their remains to their next-of-kin; to conduct a thorough, impartial, and effective investigation into the facts to determine the responsibility and to punish all the perpetrators of the human rights violations to the detriment of the victims in the instant case, including the investigations necessary to determine the responsibility and punish the persons who participated in covering up the facts and in the denial of justice; to make adequate reparation to the victims of the instant case, including both the material and non-material aspect; among other measures.

More information regarding these cases may be found on the IACHR website.

(cgb)

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