Washington DC, Thursday, March 20, 2014. The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) strongly condemns Colombia’s contempt for the precautionary measures granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Tuesday, March 18. The measures were granted to protect the political rights of the mayor of Bogota, Gustavo Petro Urrego.
Not long after receiving the IACHR’s decision, the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, announced his position to not comply with the measures and stated he would proceed to ratify the mayor’s dismissal.
Colombia’s contempt implies a serious breach of its international obligations as a signatory of the American Convention of Human Rights as well as other international treaties.
The IACHR has the competency to issue binding measures of protection under the mandate for protection and promotion of human rights in the region, granted by the OAS Charter and the American Convention. Moreover, this is explicitly outlined in the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, ratified by Colombia, as well as the Rules and Regulations of the Commission itself.
This power is also consistent with the authority held by other human rights organs to issue urgent protective measures to protect fundamental rights, including, for example, the International Court of Justice, the European Court for Human Rights, and the United Nations Committee Against Torture, among many others. These bodies have issued binding measures of protection, not only to protect life and integrity, but also other rights, like the right to family and property.
Thus, the Colombian Executive’s assertion that the precautionary measures are “requests” and only binding when protecting life and integrity is untenable in relation to international human rights law.
CEJIL notes that on numerous occasions the Colombian Constitutional Court itself has recognized that the measures are obligatory and that the State must comply. The Court specifically stated in the T-558-03 sentence that the measures assume, “a legal act adopted by an international organ for the protection of fundamental human rights, whereby the State is urged to adopt, in the shortest time possible, administrative or legal measures to cease a threat to a particular human right.” This position has served as jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court and been reiterated on various occasions.
Historically, the Colombian authorities have been willing to cooperate with the international organs for the effective application of these measures. Consequently, President Santos’s decision contradicts the country’s former position within the Inter-American Human Rights System.
In its resolution, the IACHR mentions the particular importance to preserve the political rights of public officials who are elected by popular vote due to their importance to the democratic system. In addition, it states that, in the face of any process resulting in the removal or disqualification of said officials, the parameters guaranteed by the American Convention must be respected.
In light of these events, CEJIL reminds the Sate of Colombia, as well as the powers that comprise it, of its international obligations. According to Viviana Krsticevic, CEJIL’s Executive Director, “the Colombian Executive decision generates a profound concern because it violates the application of international conventions on human rights, erodes the democratic system and minimizes the legitimacy of the Inter-American System.”
Resolution on Precautionary Measure in Spanish
Amicus Curiae Presented to the State Council by CEJIL (Spanish only)