Retroactive compliance? An inter-American blunder in the Case of Maldonado Ordóñez vs. Guatemala

By Paola Limón HLRIC-logo-212x209

Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala suffered a violent internal armed conflict. During this time, it also managed to become a full member of the Inter-American Human Rights System: signing the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR) in November 1969, ratifying it in April 1978 and accepting the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) in May 1978.

Since 1996, the IACtHR has decided 25 cases against Guatemala; making it the country with the second highest number of contentious cases decided by the IACtHR (Peru is first, with 42 cases since 1995). Of these 25 cases, Guatemala has only fully complied with one. In this regard, on 21 September 2017, the IACtHR notified its monitoring compliance resolution of 30 August 2017, declaring that Guatemala had fully complied with its judgment of 3 May 2016 in the Case of Maldonado Ordóñez.

Although this might seem like an inconsequential matter at first glance, it is unprecedented that Guatemala fully complied with an IACtHR judgment; even more so, considering that it happened in approximately 14 months. But a closer look into the merits proceedings and reparations orders in this case, reveals that full implementation of this judgment was only possible, in time and substance, due to an error attributable –not exclusively– to the IACtHR. This post, product of the ESRC Human Rights Law Implementation Project –HRLIP– (see endnote), seeks to explore those aspects of the IACtHR’s proceedings and orders in this case, which facilitated implementation of the judgment.

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By Paola Limón


Paola Limón, Senior Research Officer at the Human Rights Centre/School of Law of the University of Essex, was present at the 166th Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) as part of the research activities under the ESRC-funded Human Rights Law Implementation Project (HRLIP). The blog refers to the two main public activities that took place during these sessions: the Forum of the Inter-American Human Rights System and the IACHR’s public thematic hearings. At both these activities, domestic implementation of international human rights obligations came across as a central concern for all relevant actors, with the HRLIP presenting its preliminary findings on this matter in relation to Canada.

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Chile and the Inter-American Human Rights System

By Karinna Fernández, Cristián Peña and Sebastián Smart

Scholars and commentators have focused on Chile as a successful example of democratic transition, but much still remains to be done around improving human rights compliance in the country. For example, Chile has failed to effectively address some of the atrocities perpetrated during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship of 1973-90, or the current human rights violations that affect indigenous peoples and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) community. As will be shown, the Inter American Human Rights System (IAHRS) offers opportunities in this regard, and provides a forum to address both past and present human rights violations. To understand these opportunities, the first part of this post will give some current examples of human rights violations in the country, while in the second part we will show how the IAHRS has contributed to the advancement of human rights.

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Inter-American Commission on Human Rights selects new Executive Secretary

By Christina Cerna 

Last week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights announced that it had selected Paulo Abrao to be its next Executive Secretary, the tenth since the establishment of the Commission.  Reportedly, the Commission received over 90 applications for the post which, pursuant to Article 11 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, shall be filled by a “person of independence and high moral standing with experience and recognized expertise in the field of human rights.”  Of the five finalists, Abrao (41), was one of the more inexperienced in numerical terms, with 15 years of work experience. He will also be the youngest Executive Secretary in the Commission’s history.  The post is for four years, from August 2016-August 2020, renewable once.  If he serves two terms he will leave office still under the age of 50.

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