Criticism of Inter-American Human Rights System

Article excerpt

The Ecuadoran government, along with other progressive Latin American governments such as those of Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, and Nicaragua, are challenging the role of the Inter-American System for the protection of human rights, created within the Organization of American States (OAS), which they accuse of being a political platform that seeks to discredit governments that have moved away from US influence.

However, in the case of the government of Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, the challenges are contradictory, since it has used reports from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) to denounce human rights violations by previous administrations, such as that of former President Leon Febres Cordero (1984-1988), during which the largest number of extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances of political adversaries occurred. Correa has used commission reports to discredit rightist governments and the political parties that supported them.

Likewise, Correa validated the commission when he called on it to denounce human rights violations implicit in the March 1, 2008, bombing by Colombian forces in Angostura, Ecuador, which killed Ecuadoran citizen Franklin Aisalla and four Mexican students (NotiSur, March 7, 2008). This complaint, brought by the Procuraduna General del Estado (PGE), sought to have the Colombian government admit that the bombing violated international law and was an attack on Ecuador. The PGE called the action a massacre committed by a foreign government in national territory. The Colombian government tried to justify the action as necessary in the fight against the guerrilla insurgency of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), for it was able to eliminate guerrilla leader Raul Reyes.

Correa reacts to allegations of abusive policies

Correa's criticism of the Inter-American System began when Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Catalina Botero questioned some of his administration's measures that could affect freedom of speech such as suing journalists, seizing communications media, and drafting a new communications law that could severely limit the media's ability to do its job.

Likewise, the commission was criticized when it recommended precautionary measures to protect the rights of the directors of Diario El Universo, in the case of the lawsuit that Correa filed against them (NotiSur, Oct. 14, 2011) and in which various irregularities had been denounced that undermined the independence of the Ecuadoran judiciary, such as the charge that the president's lawyer wrote the opinion and gave it to the judge to issue.

Criticisms of the commission have also been tied to progressive Latin American governments' general criticism of the OAS, an agency that they say is not in keeping with the new regional geopolitics and remains a forum of US influence. The last Summit of the Americas, held in Colombia in April, seems to give credence to these criticisms, since the Latin American countries could not reach a political consensus with the US and Canada, resulting in the summit closing without a final statement (NotiSur, April 20, 2012).

The Ecuadoran criticisms are also related to the commission's apparent inability to judge the US, a country that would seem to be outside the jurisdiction of this international justice body, even though its judges have assumed jurisdiction in cases of violations by the US government such as arbitrary detentions at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. The August 2011 and January 2012 resolutions in which the commission calls on the US to close the prisons at this US military base would show that the commission has jurisdiction over the US government even when it ignores the resolutions.

Despite the defense of the Inter-American System by various human rights organizations throughout the region, the Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry is proposing to design a "new architecture of the Inter-American System," under the purview of the Union de Naciones Suramericanas (UNASUR), and in which jurisdiction, especially that of the Inter-American Commission, would be defined with greater precision. …