Right to identity

Inter-American Court of Human Rights says Uruguay must investigate and punish dictatorship crimes

The Gelman case is emblematic of the crimes against humanity perpetrated under Operation Condor in the 1970´s

Washington D.C and Buenos Aires, March 24, 2011- Late last night, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a ruling condemning Uruguay for the forced disappearance of Maria Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman and the birth in captivity of her daughter during the mid 1970’s. The events took place under Operation Condor, a mutual cooperation agreement between the dictatorships of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay to eliminate those regarded as political dissidents. The ruling renders the 1986 law, known as the Ley de la Caducidad de la Pretensión Punitiva del Estado, ineffective and therefore opens up the possibility for the punishment of crimes against humanity committed under the military dictatorship in Uruguay (1973-1985). The ruling is binding as Uruguay is a signatory of the American Convention on Human Rights and recognizes the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court.

Wed, 03/23/2011

Washington D.C and Buenos Aires, March 24, 2011- Late last night, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a ruling condemning Uruguay for the forced disappearance of Maria Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman and the birth in captivity of her daughter during the mid 1970’s. The events took place under Operation Condor, a mutual cooperation agreement between the dictatorships of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay to eliminate those regarded as political dissidents. The ruling renders the 1986 law, known as the Ley de la Caducidad de la Pretensión Punitiva del Estado, ineffective and therefore opens up the possibility for the punishment of crimes against humanity committed under the military dictatorship in Uruguay (1973-1985). The ruling is binding as Uruguay is a signatory of the American Convention on Human Rights and recognizes the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court.
 
Maria Claudia García Iruretagoyena was abducted in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1976.  She was seven months pregnant when she was transferred to a clandestine detention center in Uruguay, where she gave birth to a girl, Macarena. Maria Claudia was later the victim of forced disappearance and her remains were never found. In 1999, Macarena’s grandfather, renowned argentine poet Juan Gelman, tracked down his granddaughter by his own means after more than 20 years.
 
“This sentence is paradigmatic for Uruguay as it means the end of a law that has stood in the way of truth and justice for 25 years. It represents a victory for the victims, their families and a large part of Uruguayan society that has tirelessly sought to challenge a law resulting from a political agreement and guaranteeing impunity to the perpetrators of crimes against humanity. For Juan and María Macarena Gelman, this is the starting point in their quest for truth and the easing of their pain”, said Ariela Peralta, Deputy Director of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and lawyer for the case.
 
This is the first case against Uruguay to reach the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. CEJIL brought the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in May 2006. In January 2010 the case was submitted to the Court after Uruguay refused to follow recommendations issued by the IACHR.
 
Although the Uruguayan Government has used the 1989 referendum as a reason for maintaining the law, Uruguay can no longer refer to domestic law as a pretext for not complying with its international obligations. In words of Liliana Tojo, CEJIL´s Program Director for Bolivia and the Southern Cone: “The Court has finally dictated that Uruguay cannot continue to seek excuses for maintaining impunity for the victims of torture and other horrendous crimes.”
 
In addition, the judgment clearly states that investigations regarding the forced disappearance of Maria Claudia must be pursued with a view to locating her remains and bringing the perpetrators to justice. According to the Court, Uruguay must also establish criminal and administrative responsibility in accordance with International Law.
 
The Court ordered a series of reparations which include for Uruguay to adopt a series of policies to ensure integral reparation for the victims as well as a public apology for the crimes committed.
 
This case not only illustrates the scope of Operation Condor, but also the impunity that developed in Uruguay and is still in place today. Viviana Krsticevic, CEJIL´s Executive Director  said that “Today we celebrate the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims with an outstanding judgment from  the Inter- American Court of Human Rights which will contribute to re-writing the history of Uruguay. Uruguay must now face the challenge that other countries in the region have overcome in the name of truth, justice and reparations for the victims of recent human rights violations, such as Chile, Peru and Argentina.”
 
The Court´s ruling is available here in Spanish: http://www.corteidh.or.cr/casos.cfm?idCaso=355
Previous press releases in English on this case:
http://cejil.org/en/contenido/maria-claudia-garcia-de-gelman-uruguay
http://cejil.org/en/comunicados/cejil-brings-uruguay-inter-american-court

 
For more information
Contact in Washington D.C
Milli Legrain
CEJIL
Communications Coordinator
(1)-202-319.3000
Mlegrain@cejil.org
 
 

Dominican Republic must answer to charges of racial discrimination, collective expulsions and arbitrary deprivation of nationality

Mexico City, D.F., October 7, 2013 – On October 8, 2013, in the Library of the Citadel in Mexico City, a public hearing on the case Benito Tide Méndez et al v. Dominican Republic will begin. This cases addresses the collective expulsion of six family groups between 1999 and 2000.

The case deals with the structural racial discrimination which exists on the island. This discrimination manifests itself in terms of the exclusion and restriction of the rights of the Dominican population of Haitian ancestry, the group to which the majority of victims in the present case pertain.

Mon, 10/07/2013

 República Dominicana deberá responder sobre sobre discriminación racial, expulsiones masivas y privación arbitraria de nacionalidad

Mexico City, D.F., October 7, 2013 – On October 8, 2013, in the Library of the Citadel in Mexico City, a public hearing on the case Benito Tide Méndez et al v. Dominican Republic will begin. This cases addresses the collective expulsion of six family groups between 1999 and 2000.

The case deals with the structural racial discrimination which exists on the island. This discrimination manifests itself in terms of the exclusion and restriction of the rights of the Dominican population of Haitian ancestry, the group to which the majority of victims in the present case pertain.

One of the consequences of this phenomenon, which will be specifically addressed in the hearing, is the collective expulsion of afro descendents without the implementation of the necessary measures to ensure due process on immigration, on the basis that their skin color determines their status as foreigners.

The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Movimiento de Mujeres Dominico-Haitianas (Movement of Dominico-Haitian Women, MUDHA), Groupe d'Appui aux Rapatriés et Réfugiés (Support Group for Refugees and Repatriated Persons, GARR), and Columbia Law School Human Rights Law Clinic, New York will act as the representatives of the victims before the Inter-American Court in this public hearing.

Francisco Quintana, CEJIL’s Program Director for the Andean, North America and Caribbean Region, stated that: “the negation of racial discrimination constitutes the greatest obstacle to the seeking of an effective solution to the problems that the affected population suffers. This issue is extremely serious; we are talking about structural discrimination which has impacted, as well as in terms of expulsions, on the restriction of the recognition of fundamental rights such as nationality”.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination analyzed this phenomenon and concluded in its March 2013 report on the nation that structural discrimination directly affects the afro descendent population, submitting them to clear exclusion and a restriction of their fundamental rights and opportunities for development.

The international organism requested various measures for the implementation of public policies which recognize and identify the statistics of existing racial discrimination, adjusting migratory policies and impeding the denationalization of people whose situations could lead them to a condition of statelessness.

“We hope that the Inter-American Court takes on board the diverse analysis and pronouncements made by the Committee, as well as by the Committee on the Rights of Children and the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, in relation to the Dominican State”, added Paola García Rey, consultant for the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Colombia.

Cristiana Luis Francisca, President of Mudha, pointed out that “once again we have had to turn to the Inter-American System of Human Rights. The Dominican State has not left us any other alternative, as the frequent violation of rights continues to be a national reality. Equally, there is a lack of open and respectful dialogue between human rights and the authorities and organizations. Today, we are before the Inter-American Court, and if it is necessary, we will resort to the United Nations”.

During the hearing before the Inter-American Court on October 8, the judges will hear declarations presented by the representative organizations. Amongst them are the testimony of one of the Dominican victims expelled alongside with his family in 2000; the testimonies of two experts in migration policy and the correct application of international law standards on this issue; and an expert on racial discrimination in America and Africa.

The organizations request that in its decision on the case, the Inter-American Court grants integral reparations to the victims, including a public apology for the events in the name of the State. Furthermore, they request that it establishes the measures that the Dominican State must adopt in order to avoid the repetition of events. Recognizing the existing problem of racial discrimination is the first step necessary for the reversal of the patterns of exclusion and xenophobia within the nation.

María Claudia García Gelman / Uruguay

The Uruguayan Amnesty Law hides the truth about crimes committed during the dictatorship. In Buenos Aires in August 1976, armed men kidnapped María Claudia García Iruretagoyena, the daughter-in-law of the well-known Argentinean poet Juan Gelman. María Claudia was seven months pregnant, and was taken to Montevideo where she gave birth. The baby, María Macarena, was left in the doorway of the house of a member of the Uruguayan security forces, who adopted the child and gave her a new identity. Whilst Macarena found out about her true identity more than 20 years later, María Claudia’s location is still unknown.  These events occurred within the context of Operation Condor, a cooperation agreement between the dictators of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, practiced at different times during the 1970s to eliminate political dissidents.

In 1986, Uruguay approved the Law on the Expiration of the Punitive Claims of the State (Expiry Law) thereby removing any possibility of judicial investigation with regards to the majority of human rights violations committed by the armed and security forces during the last dictatorship in the nation.

The case of María Claudia and her daughter was initially restricted by this law, however the Executive later revised its decision and ordered the reopening of investigations.  CEJIL and the Gelman family brought the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 2006. For five years, Juan and Macarena Gelman and CEJIL promoted the case before the inter-American System, with the objective of achieving justice not only for María Claudia but also seeking to promote justice in all cases of grave human rights violations which were inhibited by the imposition of the Expiry Law. In November 2010, the Court heard the declarations of Juan and Macarena, as well as those of various witnesses and experts who shed light on the impunity which still persists in Uruguay.

On February 24, 2011, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a judgment on the case, condemning Uruguay for the disappearance of María Claudia and for the years during which Macarena lived with an identity which was not hers.

Furthermore, the judgment clearly established the incompatibility of the Expiry Law with the American Convention, thereby removing it of all legal effects. The Court ordered the State to remove all obstacles to justice and all that which contributed to the perpetuation of impunity, as well as to carry out, in an efficient manner, investigations regarding the forced disappearances of María Claudia and Macarena. Similarly, the Court established a series of reparations whose implication was the adoption of a range of public policies designed to make integral reparations for the violations suffered, as well as an act of public apology for the crimes committed and the persistence of impunity.

On October 27, 2011, the Uruguayan parliament took an important step in the fight against impunity with the sanctioning of Law No. 18.831, which declares certain crimes committed within the context of State terrorism during the last military dictatorship in Uruguay to constitute crimes against humanity, thereby are not subject to Statue of Limitations. The aforementioned initiative is in line with and responds to the requirements of the Inter-American Court´s judgment of February 24, 2011. In 2012, Uruguay complied with the economic reparations established for the victims and in March President Mujica carried out the act of public responsibility ordered by the Court.

This case has had an important impact in Uruguay, reopening discussions regarding truth and justice and contributing in a decisive manner to the initiation of legal actions in various instances of torture, forced disappearance and other human rights violations committed during the dictatorship. As such, new opportunities for the realization of justice are presented.

 

Legal Decisions

Merits and Reparations. Series C No. 221.

Relevant Information

CEJIL brings Uruguay before the Inter-American Court

Uruguay publicly recognizes responsibility for dictatorship crimes

Inter-American Court of Human Rights says Uruguay must investigate and punish dictatorship crimes

Gelman Case: New Hearing before the Inter-American Court

IACHR visit to Colombia

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will carry out an in loco visit to Colombia from December 3 - 7 2012, following an invitation by the Colombian government.

This will be the first IACHR in loco visit to Colombia since 2004.


IACHR press release here.

 

Fri, 11/30/2012

 

 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will carry out an in loco visit to Colombia between the December 3 and 7, 2012, following an invitation by the Colombian government.

 

This will be the first IACHR in loco visit to Colombia since 2004.


IACHR press release here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Human Rights Day

Mon, 12/10/2012 (All day)
Globally
Globally

Hearings before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Mon, 02/20/2012 (All day) - Fri, 03/02/2012 (All day)
Inter-American Commission of Human Rights
San Jose

CEJIL Activities Report - 20 years

Since its foundation in 1991 the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) has contributed significantly to the enjoyment of rights in the region. The present report outlines some of CEJIL’s milestones, achievements, and challenges over these two decades. It attempts to illustrate some notable actions in order to document the efforts of the work of that period.


Type of publication:Activities report
Full version available in:
Year: 2011
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