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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Derogations from the European Convention on Human Rights During Armed Conflict?

By Daragh Murray

The UK Joint Committee on Human Rights is currently conducting an inquiry into the Government’s proposed derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights during armed conflict.

Prof. Françoise Hampson, Prof. Noam Lubell and Dr. Daragh Murray of the Essex Human Rights Centre submitted written evidence to the Committee.

The submission addressed derogations from human rights law treaties in the context of military operations. It argued that the derogation regime does not nullify the applicability of human rights law, but rather allows for the modification of specific human rights obligations in response to emergency or exceptional circumstances.

The submission suggests that derogations play a key role within the international human rights law system and that derogations during military operations may be both appropriate and necessary. In particular, in situations of armed conflict, derogations may be required in order to ensure the coherent co-application of international human rights law and the law of armed conflict. As such, appropriate derogations permit the application of both human rights law and the law of armed conflict, ensuring the existence of a legal ‘bottom line’ that is appropriate to the situation.

The full text of the submission is available on the Committee’s website.


Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are the author(s) alone.

Extraterritorial Human Rights Obligations in the Context of State Surveillance Activities?

By Vivian Ng & Daragh Murray

On 16 May 2016, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which was established under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and provides oversight of public authorities in the United Kingdom (UK), released its decision in Human Rights Watch & Others v The Secretary of State for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office & Others (HRW v Secretary of State). The applicants claimed that UK public authorities unlawfully intercepted, stored and used their information and communications, thereby interfering with their right to respect for private and family life, and their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This post will examine the Tribunal’s decision, and offer some suggestions relevant for consideration should further claims be made to challenge the Tribunal’s decision. There is no possibility of an appeal against the Tribunal’s decision, but complainants can take claims further to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and these issues have been laid out in light of that possibility.

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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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Highlights of the 157th period of sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

By Dr. Clara Sandoval & Paola Limón

Dr. Clara Sandoval and Paola Limón, members of the Human Rights Centre and the School of Law at the University of Essex, were present at the 157th regular period of sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as part of their research activities under the ESRC-funded Human Rights Law Implementation Project (HRLIP) and the Leverhulme-funded Inter-American Human Rights Network. This blog will address some of the notable outcomes from this session, with a particular focus on efforts to address the backlog within the Inter-American system. Continue reading